●● DR Paul Bowen, GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and Executive Chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)
LAST week was Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, an annual campaign which aims to highlight the importance of cervical screening and how attending what used to be called a smear test can help to prevent cervical cancer.
The smear is usually carried out by a practice nurse and takes just a few minutes.
Cervical screening prevents 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing in the UK yet one in four women do not attend cervical screening when invited.
Indeed, 76.7 per cent of eligible women in Eastern Cheshire women attended screening in 2015, which while around four per cent above the England average, is still a slight drop on the previous year.
Women who do not take up screening invitations are putting their lives at risk, as not attending screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer.
Women aged 25 to 49 years of age are offered screening every three years, while women aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every five years.
If you are in this age range and have not taken up your invitation for screening, please do contact your practice, where a practice nurse or GP will be happy to talk you through the simple process.
I must stress that cervical cancer is largely preventable and, if caught early, survival rates are high – which is why it is so important to take up the offer of screening.
When symptoms do appear, they normally include abnormal bleeding, unusual discharge and pain during sex.
Women who have experienced these symptoms should talk to their GP. Chances are it won’t be cervical cancer but it is better to get it checked out.
For younger women, there is now a vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that causes changes to the cervical cells that can lead to cancer.
The vaccine can help prevent 70pc of cervical cancers.
For more information about cervical screening, visit nhs.uk/Conditions/ Cervical-screening-test/ Pages/Introduction.aspx.